Help reform Ottawa's Boulevard Bylaws to build biodiversity and protect pollinators!


For Our Kids Ottawa/Gatineau has been advocating to change Ottawa city bylaws so that residents can replace the grass in boulevards and right-of-way areas with native plants, returning those areas to a more natural state.

Currently, it is prohibited to plant anything but grass on the city "verge" (the space between the sidewalk and the curb) and the city-owned portion of residents' lawns (which can be between 3 - 8 ft in some cases!).  This bylaw makes beneficial greenspaces illegal and subject to fines with a single complaint.

Recently, as a result of our advocacy, the city has drafted proposed changes to the applicable bylaw (The Care and Use of Roads) that would make it easier for residents to beautify the Right of Way (ROW) in front of their residences!

This is great news, but there are a few improvements we would like to see that would make this bylaw the best of its kind in Canada. We've been working on those suggested improvements along with Ecology Ottawa and city councillors. The Ottawa Horticultural Society (OHS) provided useful gardening information and resources. 

Three ways you can be involved:

  1. Learn about our proposed changes here, along with directions on how to send your feedback through the Engage Ottawa page before May 31st.
  2. You can also send a detailed email to your city councillor to share info and your perspective with them about the benefits of this bylaw change.
  3. If your councillor is on the Transportation Committee (find out who's on the committee here) we would love to work with you to set up a meeting with them before June 22 - so send us an email!

The proposed changes will be brought to Ottawa's Transportation Committee at its June 2023 meeting.

Stay tuned as we will need your help raising awareness!

Why is this important?

Across Canada, we are seeing a significant decline in animal and plant species. More than 700 species have been classified as at risk and about 60 of them live in Ottawa. Part of this decline is habitat loss. People are beginning to realize that every space matters, especially in urban areas.  We need to reform our bylaws so that they allow residents to have naturalized gardens and to encourage planting that supports native biodiversity (the plants that our local pollinators and animals have evolved with and are the best source of food and habitat)

Communities across Canada and around the world have recognized the value of naturalizing urban spaces, and have revised their policies and bylaws to make it happen. Replacing grass with plants native to the area will:

  • mitigate the impact of climate change by absorbing significantly more carbon and improving water retention

  • reduce the need to maintain grass with gas-powered mowers and improve air quality

  • protect biodiversity by creating much-needed habitats for pollinators and at-risk species

  • minimize water runoff and flooding, and

  • improve physical and mental health by connecting people more directly with natural environments  

By working together, we can help expand biodiversity in Ottawa and protect our native species, which will help protect our planet and our kids!

Read more here about how we made this happen!

Additional resources

Here's the original letter sent to Councillor King outlining the rationale for bylaw changes

And here's the resource document we provided to Councillors and city staff

Here's CBC coverage of the issue from July 13, 2022 [Note - this issue will not be addressed with the current bylaw revisions due to the 1m setback requirement.

CTV coverage of the proposed bylaw changes

And here's background from the City of Ottawa's Engage Ottawa page


  • Early 2022, we reached out to City Councillor Rawlson King with our ask to reform the current Ottawa bylaws.
  • The motion to amend the bylaw was approved at the Transportation Committee meeting on May 4! For Our Kids parent Raewyn Khosla delegated at that meeting and you can find her delegation around the 3-minute mark of this video:
  • The city approved this motion at their May council meeting!
  • On May 9, the city launched an engage ottawa page to inform residents of the proposed changes to the bylaw.
  • The proposed changes will be brought to the Transportation Committee at their June 2023 meeting.